Giving multivitamins to kids 5 to 8 years old does not seem to alter their overall likelihood of having allergies, hint findings of a study from Sweden.
However, starting multivitamins at the age of 4 or younger may curb the risk of food allergies and seasonal or inhaled allergies, the study found.
Dr. Anna Bergstrom, at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, and colleagues questioned parents of 2,423 8-year-old boys and girls about their children’s multivitamin use, lifestyle, environmental exposures, and history of asthma and allergies.
They also measured the kids’ blood for antibodies to inhaled allergens such as tree pollens, or foods commonly consumed in Sweden.
Overall, slightly fewer than 8 percent of the children had asthma, about 15 percent had respiratory allergies, and almost 18 percent had dry, itchy skin allergies - percentages similar to those of Swedish kids in general.
About 40 percent of the kids took some sort of vitamin supplement during the previous year, most of which were multivitamins with and without minerals.
The investigators found no association between use of multivitamins in the previous year, or use between 5 and 8 years of age, and any allergic disease in analyses that allowed for other factors potentially linked with allergies.
In contrast, skin prick tests hinted that the 8-year-olds who began taking multivitamins at age 4 or younger were less likely to be sensitive to inhaled and food allergies than were kids who never took multivitamins or began taking them at age 5 and older.
For example, inhaled and food allergies were evident in 45 of the 180 kids (25 percent) who took multivitamins when 4 or younger, but in 185 of the 502 kids (37 percent) who were 5 and older when they began taking multivitamins. Of the 1380 kids who never took multivitamins, 471 (34 percent) had similar allergies.
Bergstrom and colleagues suggest the current findings “be interpreted with caution.”
While it is biologically plausible that vitamins may lessen allergic disease, they note that scientific evidence regarding the benefits of these supplements remains contradictory.
SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December 2009